This special Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) Online Newsletter is devoted to a consideration of need to establish a “vegetarian-conscious world by 2010.”
This newsletter contains the following items:
1. Introduction and Synopsis
2. Why the Need for a Vegetarian-Conscious World?
3. Strategies Toward a Vegetarian-Conscious World
5. Sample Letters (and short articles)
Opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the JVNA, unless otherwise indicated, but may be presented to increase awareness and/or to encourage respectful dialogue.
As always, your comments and suggestions are very welcome.
TOWARD A VEGETARAN-CONSCIOUS WORLD BY 2010
Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.
Synopsis: The world is imperiled today as perhaps never before by many threats, including global warming, rapid species extinction, widening water shortages, deforestation, and desertification. Many scientists are stating that we may reach a “point of no return” with regard to global warming within a decade. Hence, major changes are needed and they are needed very soon. Yet, most people are unaware of the many negative effects of animal-based diets and agriculture on the environment, resource usage and human health. Hence the need for a campaign to reach a “vegetarian-conscious world by 2010.”
TOWARD A VEGETARAN-CONSCIOUS WORLD BY 2010
In spite of the increasing need for a shift toward vegetarianism to counteract the present epidemic of diseases and the many environmental threats caused by the production and consumption of animal products, progress has been relatively slow. It is time for a consideration of new strategies to promote vegetarianism more effectively. I believe that it is time to consider these strategies as part of an overall strategy of seeking a vegetarian-conscious world by 2010.
[Please note: I believe that our objective should actually be the creation of a “vegan-conscious world by 2010.” But, for strategic reasons, it might be better to start with vegetarianism and then increasingly bring up the benefits of veganism once the project has got off the ground.]
Why is the expression “vegetarian-conscious world” being used? The reason is that, as much as we would like everyone to be vegan, or at least vegetarian, as soon as possible, people’s dietary decisions are beyond our control. However, we can work to see that everyone, or at least as many people as possible, is aware of the realities of how animals are cruelly treated on factory farms and of the many negative effects of animal-based diets and agriculture on their health and that of our imperiled planet. Once people have this awareness, and recognize the seriousness of the issues, it is hoped that many will switch toward vegetarianism.
This is just a very preliminary draft aimed to get people to start thinking about the issues and how we can get this important project to be “a central organizing principle” for future vegetarianan/vegan and animal rights and environmental activism. So suggestions for improving this statement and for getting this project off the ground are very welcome.
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2. Why the Need for a Vegetarian-Conscious World?
It is very easy to be discouraged by the failure of most people to respond to our powerful vegetarian/vegetarian arguments. But, as the evidence of the very negative effects of animal-based diets and agriculture become increasingly apparent, it is essential that we continue and increase our efforts. The following are reasons why a rapid shift toward vegetarianism is essential:
a. The world is threatened today as perhaps never before. Many scientists are arguing that we may be at a “point of no return” or “tipping point” with regard to global warming within a decade, and that there will be catastrophic results unless major changes are soon made. Hence the need for a major campaign to obtain a “vegetarian-conscious world by 2010.”
b. There have been many recent news reports re:
1) the melting of glaciers and the polar ice caps ;
2) projections of increased numbers and severity of hurricanes, this year and possibly for at least the next 10 to 20 years;
3) widening water shortages, with projections of at least 50% of the world’s people living in areas chronically short of water by the middle of this century;
4) a sharp increase in obesity and many diseases related to it;
All of these and many more current threats have strong links to animal-based diets and agriculture, and it is important that we help make people more aware of the connections.
c. Vegetarianism is not only an important individual choice today - it is a societal imperative because of the enormous economic and environmental costs of animal-based diets and agriculture.
d. A shift to vegetarianism is arguably the most effective way to:
1) reduce disease rates sharply;
2) halt soaring medical costs;
3) reduce the mistreatment of animals;
4) protect the environment;
5) conserve resources;
6) help hungry people;
7) reduce violence.
e. It is essential to make people aware of the insanity of a diet that is inflicting an epidemic of disease on millions of people and contributing substantially to serious environmental crises, global warming, scarcity of water and other resources, and widespread hunger, while mistreating billions of farm animals.
f. While there are 6.5 billion people in the world today, there are over 50 billion farmed animals and raising them contributes significantly to soil erosion and depletion, water pollution, destruction of tropical rain forests and other habitats, scarcities of water and other resources, global climate change, and other environmental threats. To make matters worse, livestock agribusiness, along with the World Bank and other international groups are planning to greatly increase the number of farmed animals worldwide, especially in countries like China, India, and Japan.
g. A switch toward vegetarianism is a spiritual imperative today because of the many inconsistencies between basic religious values and the realities of animal-based agriculture and diets. A key question we should address to meat eaters is: In view of strong religious mandates to take care of our health, treat animals compassionately, preserve the environment, conserve resources, help hungry people, and pursue peace and non-violence, and the very negative effects that animal-based diets and agriculture have in each of these areas, shouldn’t you eliminate or sharply reduce their consumption of animal products?
h. It is urgent that vegetarianism be put squarely on religious agendas, and on other agendas, because the revitalization of religions and the sustainability of the global environment depend on a shift to plant-based diets.
i. At a time when there are daily news reports related to such issues as mad cow disease, foot and mouth disease, a variety of degenerative diseases, soaring health care costs, a multitude of environmental threats, increasingly severe effects of global climate change, and widening scarcities of water, and energy, it is essential that vegetarianism be on society’s agenda.
j. There are many indications, including the fact that Time magazine dad a cover story on the issue, that global warming is now a mainstream issue and people are increasingly recognizing how great a threat it is. However, very few people are aware of the major contributions that modern, intensive “livestock” agriculture has on global warming.
k. As indicated in Michael Klare’s extremely important article below, prospects for “resource wars” are increasing. Here also, few people recognize how significantly animal-based diets and agriculture contribute to shortages of water, energy, land, and other resources., so it is essential that we increase awareness of the connections.
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3. Strategies Toward a Vegetarian-Conscious World
a. Set a Goal and a Time Table
This, of course is the aim of this project. We should not be satisfied with the relatively slow progress currently being made toward vegetarianism, especially in the face of all the recent disturbing reports of environmental catastrophes ahead. Declaring a goal, such as “A Vegetarian-conscious World by 2010” can inspire our efforts by providing something to work toward. With such a goal, we can work, with a heightened sense of urgency, to see that everyone is at least aware of the many reasons for becoming a vegetarian, or at least a vegetarian, with the hope that many will act based on that knowledge.
b. Make People Aware That a Shift Toward Vegetarianism is Beneficial for People as Well as Animals
Many people resist vegetarian and vegetarian arguments, asserting that they can’t be concerned about animals when people face so many problems. While continuing to work to reduce the horrible abuses of animals on factory farms, we should also stress that a shift to vegetarianism would be very beneficial to people as well as animals. Among the arguments we should use are:
1) Animal-based diets increase risk factors for many life-threatening diseases, including heart disease, several types of cancer, and stroke.
2) Animal-based agriculture contributes significantly to many environmental threats to humanity.
3) The feeding of 70 percent of the grain produced in the United States (and almost 40 percent of the grain produced worldwide) to farmed animals contributes to an estimated 20 million of the world’s people dying annually from hunger and its effects.
c. Make People Aware That a Shift Toward Vegetarianism is a Societal Imperative Today
Humanity is arguably threatened as perhaps never before from global warming, widening water shortages, rapid species extinction, destruction of tropical rain forests and other valuable habitats, and many other problems. We should make people aware that all of these threats and many more are significantly worsened by the following: we are raising 50 billion farmed animals for slaughter annually worldwide; almost 40 percent of the world’s grain is used to fatten farmed animals; it takes 14 times as much water, ten times as much energy, and over 20 times as much land for an animal-based diet than it does for a vegetarian diet; animal-based agriculture contributes significantly to emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases; and much more. We should also stress that diseases caused by the consumption of animal product results in soaring medical expenditures which are contributing to record budget deficits and the perceived need to cut basic social services.
d. Inform People That a Shift Toward Vegetarianism is a Religious Imperative Today
Most people profess to be religious today and many claim to base their lives on moral values related to their religions. We should respectfully discuss with such people how animal-based diets and agriculture contradict basic religious mandates to preserve our health, treat animals compassionately, preserve the environment, conserve natural resources, help hungry people, and seek and pursue peace. We should stress such biblical teachings as “God’s mercies are over all of His creatures” (Psalms 145:9), “the righteous person considers the lives of his or her animals” (Proverbs 12:10), that animals as well as people are to be permitted to rest on the Sabbath day (part of the Ten Commandments), and similar teachings from other holy books and teachers.
e. Relate Vegetarianism to Current News Items
Vegetarianism touches on almost all phases of life – health, nutrition, animals, the environment, energy, water and other resources, economics, politics, family life, and many more – and we should make people aware of connections. When there are news reports re global warming and its effects, we should point out that animal-based diets contribute significantly to emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases. When there are articles re taxes, budget deficits, and other economic issues, we should indicate that health costs are soaring in efforts to cure the many diseases that have been conclusively connected to animal-centered diets. When there are articles about water shortages and droughts, we should help make people aware that animal-based agriculture requires far more water and other resources than plant-based agriculture. Many additional examples can be given.
f. Start a Letter Writing Campaign
As a follow-up to the discussion in item #5, there should be a major campaign to get letters to editors on connections between various issues and vegetarianism. If only a small percentage of the people concerned about vegetarianism and related issues wrote a letter just once a month, it could have a major impact. A web site should be set up that provides sample letters and gives talking points daily for letters based on current issues.
As a related approach, since many people listen daily to talk radio shows, there should also be a concerted effort to get people to call such shows with vegetarian messages. While radio talk show hosts are generally very well informed on a wide variety of issues, I have found that many have major misconceptions re health, nutrition, and other vegetarian-related issues.
g. Make a Shift to Vegetarianism a Priority for the Animal Rights Movement
The vast majority of cases of animal abuses occur on factory farms. Yet, many, perhaps most, animal rights activists are working on other issues, such as circuses, rodeos, fur, pets, and animal experimentation. These are all important issues and it is essential that we continue to work to end, or at least reduce, all cases of animal abuse. But, animal-based diets and agriculture threaten most individuals’ personal health and the well being of humanity. If most animal rights advocates worked on promoting vegetarianism and veganism, even for a limited time, in addition to their other animal rights efforts, it could have a very powerful impact.
h. Challenge the Medical Establishment
Every person is concerned about his or her health and the health of loved ones. There is very strong evidence that incidents of heart disease, various types of cancer, strokes, and other chronic degenerative diseases can be sharply reduced by a shift to vegetarian and vegetarian diets, along with other positive lifestyle changes. Yet, the medical establishment, including most nutritionists, are ignoring this information, and are not making patients and the general public aware that many diseases can be prevented, and sometimes reversed, through dietary changes. It might even be considered “medical malpractice.” I recently visited a cousin in a rehabilitation center, and was astounded at reading the daily menus, which had animal products at every meal. It is essential that we respectfully challenge medical practitioners and urge them to help educate people about healthy diets.
As indicated below, others, such as educators, politicians, religious leaders, and reporters, should also be challenged to increase awareness of the health and many other benefits of vegetarian and vegan diets.
i. Form Alliances With Other Groups
Since vegetarianism has connections with many societal issues, we should try to build strong alliances with many other groups that are working for positive changes. For example, we should seek alliances with environmental groups, and inform them that the raising of 50 billion animals for slaughter annually, primarily on “factory farms,” contributes to many environmental threats; we should seek alliances with groups concerned about hunger, poverty, water and energy shortages, global warming, and related issues, and inform them about how the production of animal products contributes to many environmental threats and is extremely wasteful of resources.
j. Challenge the Media, Politicians, Educators, and Other Members of the Establishment
Since, as indicated above humanity is threatened as perhaps never before, and a switch toward vegetarianism is a societal imperative, and there are vegetarian connections to many current issues, we should try to meet with influential members of society and urge them to take a stand re vegetarianism, or at least to put the issues on their agendas. We should urge educators to see that children learn about proper nutrition and are provided with tasty, nutritious options at every meal. We should exhort reporters and editors to make people aware of the many negative effects of animal-based diets and the many benefits of vegetarian and vegan diets.
k. We should call for the formation of a commission of health experts. nutritionists, environmentalists, agricultural experts, leading clergy members and other objective experts to investigate the realities of the production and consumption of animal products and how they effect the future of our endangered planet.
l. If we can get funding for this project, it would be wonderful to put ads in many publications, produce videos, etc. But, even without funding, much can be accomplished if even a fraction of the many members of vegetarian, animal rights and related groups got involved with letter writing, visits to educators. media people, clergy members and other influential people, took part in demonstrations, etc.
This is just an outline of some steps that I think would be helpful in moving toward a vegetarian world by 2010. I am sure that the many dedicated people in the vegan, vegetarian, animal rights and related movements can add to the above points and come up with additional suggestions. The important thing is that we become increasingly involved, for our sakes, for the animals, and for our precious, but imperiled, planet.
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5. Sample Letters (and short articles)
a. PROMOTING VEGETARIANISM
by Richard H. Schwartz, Ph. D.
October 1 has been designated as World Vegetarian Day. It is an excellent time to review the many important reasons for switching to a vegetarian diet:
1) Concerned about health? Flesh-based diets have been strongly linked to many degenerative diseases, including heart problems, strokes, and various types of cancer.
2) Concerned about tremendous annual national budget deficits and high taxes? Medical expenditures have soared from $80 billion in 1970 (6% of U. S. GNP) to an estimated $1.06 trillion in 1994 (14% of GNP) and is projected to be $1.7 trillion by the end of the century (18% of GNP).
3) Concerned about animals? Over 9 billion farm animals are killed for their flesh annually in the United States after suffering horribly in confined spaces where they are denied fresh air, exercise, or any emotional stimulation.
4) Concerned about the environment? The production of animal products is a major contributor to soil depletion and erosion, extensive pesticide use, air and water pollution, and the rapid destruction of tropical rain forests and other ecosystems.
5) Concerned about world hunger? Over 70% of the grain grown in the United States is fed to animals destined for slaughter, while 20 million people die annually due to hunger and its effects. The U. S. is also the world`s largest importer of beef and fish, and these imports are generally from countries where people are starving.
6) Concerned about resource scarcities? A meat-based diet requires up to 20 times more land and 14 times more water and energy than a vegetarian diet. Non-vegetarian diets also require vast amounts of pesticides, chemical fertilizer, and other resources.
7) Concerned about peace? Flesh-centered diets, by wasting land and other valuable resources, help to perpetuate the widespread hunger and poverty that frequently lead to instability and war.
8) Concerned about religious values? Vegetarian diets are most consistent with religious mandates to act with compassion toward animals, preserve human health, help hungry people, protect the environment, conserve resources, and pursue peace.
9) Concerned about convenient, tasty meals? There are many delicious vegetarian dishes that don’t involve extensive preparation or the fat, cholesterol, hormones, and antibiotics associated with meat.
So, for our health, for defenseless animals, for millions of starving people, for our earth and its resources, and for a more peaceful, just, and harmonious world, let’s go vegetarian! And a great time to start is October 1, 1996, during the "World Vegetarian Day"
b. Sample Letter to the editor of a pro-vegetarian group:
I want to commend you for your important efforts to educate people on the need to shift toward plant-based diets. However, in spite of the increasing need for a shift toward vegetarianism to counteract the present epidemic of diseases and the many environmental threats caused by the production and consumption of animal products, progress has been relatively slow. I believe that it is time for a consideration of strategies to promote vegetarianism more effectively. Here are ten suggestions designed to start a dialogue that will lead to positive changes:
1) Set a goal such as “A Vegetarian-conscious World by 2010.”
2) Make people aware that a shift toward vegetarianism is beneficial for people as well as animals.
3) Argue that a shift toward vegetarianism is a societal imperative today because of the many negative health and environmental effects of animal-based diets.
4) Argue that a shift toward vegetarianism is a religious imperative today because animal-centered diets violate many religious mandates.
5) Relate vegetarianism to current news items.
6) Start a letter writing campaign and a campaign of responses to radio talk shows.
7) Make a Shift to Vegetarianism a Priority for the Animal Rights Movement.
8) Challenge the medical establishment to inform people that many diseases can be prevented and sometimes reversed through a shift to vegetarian diets and other positive lifestyle changes.
9) Form alliances with environmental, health, animal rights, social justice, and other groups.
10) Urge the media, politicians, educators, and others to help make people aware of the many benefits of vegetarian diets.
This is just an outline of some steps that I think would be helpful in moving toward a vegetarian world. I am sure that the many dedicated people in the vegetarian and related movements can come up with additional suggestions. The important thing is that we become increasingly involved, for our sakes, for the animals, and for our precious, but imperiled, planet.
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